IPF Webinar on
"Retaining Balance: Insights into Sustainable Economics”
September 18, 2021
Dr. M.R. Venkatesh (Author of "Retaining Balance: The Eternal Way")
Prof. M.D. Nalapat (UNESCO Peace Chair at Manipal University)
Shri P.S. Prabhakar (President, Society of Auditors, Chennai)
Dr Kuldeep Ratnoo (Director, India Policy Foundatio)
Dr Kuldeep Ratnoo:
Namaskar! On behalf of India Policy Foundation, I welcome you all to today’s discussion. Our topic for today is ‘Retaining Balance: Insights into Sustainable Economics. ’Very recently, one of our panellists, M.R. Venkatesh published his book, ‘Retaining Balance: The Eternal Way.’ Keeping in view the valuable insights provided by Mr Venkatesh, we thought of taking this discussion forward and learning from him and also from eminent experts, not only to discuss about the book but about the long-term implications of the ideas propounded by Mr Venkatesh in his book. This is a very critical time. For the last three-four decades, there has been a debate about the utility of capitalism and its impact on environment,livelihoods, employment and social life. There is also a discussion and debate about the feasibility of communism. Both these ideas originated in the West, particularly in Europe and both of these ideas were deeply influenced by Christian theology. Indian philosophy and Indian knowledge traditions have been very old. As we call it, the Sanatan way or the eternal way. There have been lots of writings and discourses but utilising those ideas and applying them in the modern socio-economic-political scenario and also providing guidelines to the future was a humungous task.
Before going to the introductions, I would like to say that I know Mr Venkatesh since 2002, whenI had joined as the editor of Swadeshi. I was very fortunate to have the guidance of very senior and prominent thinkers but particularly of Mr Venkatesh. He used to always encourage and guide me about the nitty-gritties of political economy and whenever he used to come to Delhi to attend Swadeshi meetings and for his other work, we would meet and discuss about a lot of issues. As you all know, RSS leader and thinker, founder of Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh, Bharatiya Kisan Sangh,Swadeshi Jagaran Manch and several other organisations, Shri Dattopant Thengadiji used to say that both communism and capitalism would not be able to solve the problems of humanity. He used to emphasise on finding a third way. There is a compilation of his speeches and articles in the form of book which talks aboutThird Way. It is great relief that Venkatesh ji has taken that work forward and the ideas propounded by Deendayal JI Upadhyaya in his ‘Integral Humanism’ and Dattopantji’s ideas motivating Indians to look beyond capitalism and communism. Prof M.G. Bokare wrote a book, ‘Hindu Economics’ in the 90s and now Venkateshji has written this book, ‘Retaining Balance: The Eternal Way.’ It is a milestone in Indian thinking and in Indian intellectual progress. I am very sure that this particular book will be a guiding light for not only our economists, political leaders, thinkers, academia, media persons but also for the youth who seem sometimes to be at deep confusion reading economic thoughts, principles and ideas which do not make sense to them. We live in a different environment. We have a long heritage of Hindu beliefs and dharma which guide our lives. So, all those ideas have been taken forward and given a concrete shape into a guiding light and into a format by Venkateshji.
We are very happy to have Venkateshji with us. We are also very pleased to have with us Prof Madhav Nalapatji. We are really grateful to you for finding time from your very busy schedule. And we are also very grateful to have Prabhakarji.
Now I request my colleague Lekshmi Parameswaran to kindly introduce our panellists.
Good evening everyone! I will provide brief introduction of our panellists today.
Shri Madhav Das Nalapat is a well-known name in the field of academics, media and public policy.
He is India's first Professor of Geopolitics and the UNESCO Peace Chair at Manipal Academy of Higher Education (An Institution of Eminence by the MHRD, Government of India). He is also vice-chair of Manipal Advanced Research Group and Honorary Director of the Department of Geopolitics & International Relations, MAHE.
Shri Nalapat has handled Editorial responsibilities at Mathrubhumi and The Times of India. Currently he is the editorial director of ITV Network &The Sunday Guardian-India. He is also a member of the executive committee of the Editors Guild of India.
Prof. Nalapat writes extensively on security, policy and international affairs. Apart from his Sunday Guardian column, his writings have been published in a wide range of publications all over the world.
He is known for his advocacy of free speech and freedom of press, transparency of governance and bureaucracy, defence of democracy and creating education policy and systems in India that include India's civilisational history.
Prof. Nalapat has been the President of the International Interfaith Dialogue India. His vision for a stable world is reflected in his peace building efforts; some examples are his associations with ASEAN, BRICS, RIC, the Quadrilateral Alliance, the Anglosphere, The Global Peace Foundation and Sravasti.
He is also:
• Editor-in-Chief of Science, Technology and Security Forum
• Foreign Policy expert at Gateway House: Indian Council on Global Relations
• Member of Advisory Board at India, China & America Institute, Georgia
• Member of Resource Board at Centre for International Relations, Washington D.C.
• Member of Global Peace Foundation
Dr. M.R. Venkatesh is an advocate, accountant, columnist, commentator and writer. He completed his doctoral thesis on the topic of Agricultural subsidies with SASTRA University. He is a visiting faculty in various professional institutions, Chambers of Commerce and Universities.
Mr Venkatesh passed Chartered Accountancy in 1992 with an all India Ranking and was in active practice from 1993 till 2018 as partner of GSV Associates, Chartered Accountants, Chennai.
He has authored many books and is a well-known face on TV News Channels seen discussing diverse issues. His articles are published by many newspapers and websites.
He is one of India’s leading Advocates on economic-criminal laws and a much sought-after legal professional. He is also a keen student of economics and politics. As a professional, he has been an advisor to several corporates and promoters on complex transactions involving cross-disciplinary expertise. His earlier book titled Sense, Sensex and Sentiments has been acknowledged by experts as one of the pioneering works in the field of Anti-Money Laundering.
His written work includes:
A Handbook on Anti-dumping, which was released by the former Prime Minister of India Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee in 2001
A monograph on Capital Account Convertibility, which was published in July 2006
A monograph on Inflation, which was published in 2007
A book titled “Global Imbalances and the Impending Dollar Crisis”, which was published in September 2007 in Chennai
A detailed report on the farm sector in India in the context of Doha Round of negotiations and the aegis of WTO
A book titled " Sense, Sensex and Sentiments: Failure of India’s Financial Sentinels" in 2011
A book titled "Dr. Manmohan Singh - A DECADE OF DECAY" in 2013. The book demystified the challenges confronting India and Indian economy.
Recently, his book “Retaining Balance: The Eternal Way” was published. Retaining Balance is a fascinating approach to deal with the challenges faced by the discipline of economics. This book critically analyses the prevalent conundrum of policy framers who place too much reliance on the individual, in the process ignoring traditional institutions of family, society and community.
Shri P. S. Prabhakar is Chennai based Chartered Accountant. He has over 4 decades of post-qualification experience, including stints abroad.
Currently, he is the President of The Society of Auditors, Chennai, an organisation of nearly 90 years standing.
He is a regular panellist in discussion for ain AIR , Doordarshan and in several news channels on matters pertaining to economics, finance, governance and politics.
Shri Prabhakar is a prolific writer on various issues such as Insurance, IFRS, Taxation, Multinational Accounting Firms, etc. and on non-professional matters as well.
He is a keen enthusiast of Indian classical music and Tamil theatre.
Dr. Kuldeep Ratnoo:
Thank you! Now I request Shri Prabhakar to initiate the discussion.
Shri P. S. Prabhakar:
Thank you very much! Good evening to every one of you. I am very happy to be participating in this panel discussion cum webinar on the monumental work done by Dr Venkatesh, who is a good friend of mine, and has written a book titled ‘Retaining Balance.’ I am one of the few fortunate souls who had the pleasure of reading the book as it was being written chapter by chapter. When I read the book after he had finished it completely, I had seen that substantial improvements were made in every single chapter. And what I could see initially were individual chapters. But what I saw finally was seamless integration of brilliant ideas. There were effective and powerful arguments to make us believe that what all we read as economics is not economics at all. What all we understood as economics was not the actual economics. Because there are certain basic things that the economists across the world and across the timeline of centuries have missed out and Dr Venkatesh has brought out so much of information and so many ideas. One can probably see that the sustainability, as a factor has been stressed by him to a large extent by his powerful argument of restraining oneself. In fact, I was mentioning even earlier in a programme that he should probably have a tagline to his book, ‘restrain to sustain.’ This actually sums up his work.
Dr Venkatesh has had abundance of grace of Lord Rama which can be seen from the first chapter itself. He has spoken about monogamy which is a trait that has been attributed only to Lord Rama. In the last chapter, he has spoken about Rama Rajya. In between also, he has spoken about the mindset of a person who has taken a loan,in the Indian context. He has made several references to the attitude of the people in the Western countries who keep borrowing. He has mentioned about how a US President soon after 9/11 asked the American people to shop till they drop. Dr Venkatesh and Shri Gurumurthy always used to say that the world saves so that America can spend. He has mentioned about a particular incident in Ramayana where Lord Rama advises Ravana when he is on the brink of defeat. Lord Rama told Ravana not to worry, go home, relax and come back tomorrow. This particular incident has also meant that the Ramayana has been a great guiding factor for Dr Venkatesh which is why he has dedicated the book to the civilisational God Ram. The whole aspect of civilisation, consequently family,is a thread that has been going on from the first chapter to the last chapter. How the economy has to be understood and how the economy has not been understood without the factors like civilisation, family etc. So, this is what I wanted to say in my initial remarks.
Prof Madhav Nalapat:
It is an honour to be here. Many of the concepts that Venkatesh ji has made are absolutely wonderful. I have had many conversations with him on the book. I want to say that there are two aspects that particularly strike me. One is his very welcome emphasis on family. He has put the family at the centrepiece of tranquillity. We have some beliefs that you go off to the mountains and meditate. That is fine for some people. But overall there is no doubt that the influence of the family or the influence of people who really care for you and whom you really care for, when that influence is around, it is such an important spur to creativity. If you look at the creativity of so many peoplewho have done so much, you will always find that there is a link there. Barring a few people, who are ascetics, there is a link there between such people and the family of genuine feeling, the family of genuine sincerity. I think Dr Venkatesh has done well to emphasise that humanity for the simple reason that economics is called the dismal science. You have people like Adam Smith, Parson Malthus and others who had considered men and women almost as machines. Parson Malthus in his Malthusian theory stressed that the horrible situation is always there to face mankind. There is no doubt that following the advice of various economists, we do find that there is lot of poverty and lot of tension.
So, there is this question on what exactly economics should be about? Instead of being a dismal science, should it not be a science of contentment, science of happiness or science of fulfilment? I think it is a very important question that Dr Venkatesh has been pondering over and, in this book,judging by the discussions I have had with him, this process must have been carried forward substantially.
I also want to say that he has put forward a very important point regarding sustainability. I would like to say that sustainability is just not a question of bank balance. Supposing you have a bank balance, a lot of things can be sustainable for you. But they are not sustainable according to Dr Venkatesh. The reason is many times we do things, not because we like to do things but because we are told that we shouldlike to do these things.The reality of the situation is that many of what we regard as essential to happiness is actually essential to other people’s concepts of how we should be happy. It is the mechanics of happiness. It is not simply a question of mechanics but it is also chemistry. And very often in human life, just as economics believes all of us to be robots, it forgets the chemistry of the human being. I would like to say economics as a science and subject has to understand the chemistry of the human being and the human mind. From that point of view, we have to understand what would really be of personal joy to us. Let me give you a personal example. I know an individual who is very well off and also not very anxious to spend his money on other people. Earlier he wasn’t like that but recently he told me that he was much happier now helping people. He thought he would be happy counting his wealth. But now he feels happy in giving. The reality of the situation is that we have people who are billionaires and mega billionaires. But the point is why don’t we have a list of people who have done good to society? Why don’t we have lists of people who have given rather than taken, who have contributed rather than acquired? I think that is a much healthier way at looking at society and looking at humanity. What I would like to say is that Dr Venkatesh in his thought exemplifies humanity. He has put humanity and Sanatan Dharma first. Sanatan dharma is about freedom of choice. All our views are valid provided we believe in them not because it is stylish or fashionable to believe in them or because others have told us to do so. I think the real individual behind the masks that all of us have put on in front of society, the real economics behind the masks – Malthusian economics - that is the economics that Dr Venkatesh has sought to reveal to all of us. I am truly happy that he has made the effort and I hope that this message will spread across society. My only problem is that Dr Venkatesh sometimes assumes that people should be a little more like himself or Prabhakarji but the reality is that at least in today’s world such people are not the people that “succeed” in a material sense. Unfortunately, therefore, what happens is a different way of thinking,which is mechanical, which harms sustainability, society and the collective,but it is helpful to the individual. And the individual is always given more importance than the collective. We talk about the collective being the collection of individuals. We forget that sometimes the individuals can subtract rather than add. I want to end by saying that let us all individuals add to society and not subtract from it as the gains that we get is an illusionary gain and we will all be much happier if it is not just a gain for us but to society. Thank you for giving me the privilege to say a few words on the work of an outstanding individual, Dr M R Venkatesh.
Dr Kuldeep Ratnoo:
One important point raised by Prabhakarji as well as Prof Nalapat is about individualism. Communism as well as capitalism put emphasis on the individual. For us, individual is definitely important but we also emphasise on the collective. Dr Venkatesh ji, you have talked about the role of family in economic planning and economic thinking. Could you please elaborate on what is your view on individual versus family in economic planning?
Dr M.R. Venkatesh:
Let me first thank Nalapatji and Prabhakarji for joining the webinar.
Now coming to your question, the whole idea of both Marxism and marketism which revolves around atomisation of individuals stems from the Christian ideology of a broken self. I have long been a student of the constitutional law andlong been understanding economics. But the core idea that drives both markets and Marx is that everybody is supposed to be atomised and this atomisation of individuals is what will allow us to dominate them. Family is the bulwark against every ism. Therefore, family becomes the target of every single practitioner of every ism. In fact, Chapter III of my book is titled. ‘To destroy family, Marx goes to market.’ I wouldn’t see much of a difference between Marxism and marketism from several angles. Of course, there are some differences but that is superficial. But if you scratch the surface, you will find that Marxism and marketism or what is calledas liberalism almost mirroring each other in several ideas. For instance, both wouldn’t give a damn for environment. Exploitation of environment is a given. At best, an issue to be settled is one of ownership of resources. Now, when family steps into this equation, it ensures sustainability for the simple reason that we do not wish to give a worser planet to our children than what we inherited. But if I am atomised, the problem would be that I will not care for my children.
In family, I have also talked about inheritance of property. Let us take inheritance as an issue. There is a saying that when I die, even if I am unable to give property to my children, I should at least not give debts to my children. This is the standard saying of any average Indian. But when property is being inherited by the next generation, both Marxists and Libertarians want that to be taxed. You ask a free marketer whether he would have any problem in introducing inheritance tax. People would say that I don’t have any problem. Now why should I pay taxes on a property that my father has built after paying all the taxes.The idea is I should be divorced from my father and the one thing that has that emotional connect is property. So, the state will step in so that I am compelled to sell my property to pay taxes. Property is like umbilical cord that connects one to parents. Many of the people who live in this country have retained the old houses of their parents because they believethat their parents lived there and they believe that it is more of a temple and less of a house. This is what I call a civilisational impact on economics.
Now, this civilisation unfortunately cannot be reduced to a mathematical formula or any type of quantitative analysis. World of economics since 1960s or 70s has migrated into being more of quantitative techniques and less of economics, more of finance and less of economics. Consequently, you will find that people are not able to derive mathematical modelling of culture and civilisation. Since it cannot be brought into mathematical equations,people from the Chicago school have repeatedly pointed out that by ignoring culture and civilisation, we are doing a great harm to the discipline of economics. And economics has been completely diverse from civilisational restrains. What is culture and what is civilisation? If you analyse it and look at it simply, it means that I am restrained. The power of restrain.I have discussed this in Chapter IX and I have discussed a very big shloka of Kanchi Acharya, Maithreem Bhajatha where he says that the whole world has to restrain itself. It was not a simple poem. He wrote it for the UN where the renowned M. S. Subbulakshmi sang it as a song. The deeper meaning is civilisations and restraints only allow people to flourish. That is the beginning of culture. But unfortunately, this cannot be reduced to mathematics. And since it cannot be reduced to mathematics, economists ignore it. Though economists have ignored it, the culture still remains and has profound implications. So, what we study, the discipline of economics is like the visually impaired man describing an elephant without having the full understanding of elephant in all its dimensions. That is creating problems for all of us and that is why we are having the repeated booms and busts. These have been analysed critically. People have decoded it and have found solutions only to find that after a boom, there is a bust and after a bust, there is a boom. We don’t know why an irrational lassitude follows an irrational exuberanceand vice versa. That is why I say family is a balancer. Family will ensure that an individual is kept within checks. And that family having monogamous traits and civilisational roots is what will drive economics.
If this is articulated in the world of economics, then this is what I call Ram Rajya. I have titled Chapter X is a peculiar way. I have said that Ram Rajya is one where there is more ofRajyaand less of Ram. Meaning that everybody does his duty. In such a case, there is very little scope for Ram. RamRajya doesn’t mean that Ram will come and help you. It is about helping yourselves, doing your duty. That is why I have drawn the quote from Prime Minister Narendra Modi to say, “minimum governance and maximum governance.” That is the objective of Ram Rajya.
Finally, I would like to say that if you have a destination ofRamRajya, it is not rajyaor Ram, it is your own self that has to find the way to RamRajya. And that is through the mechanism of family.
Shri P. S. Prabhakar:
Dr Venkatesh has brilliantly argued about the family being the central theme and consequently civilisation which has to possibly drive the subject of economics. But unfortunately, what happened is everything else is imported. The colonial rule has probably made us think that everything has to be imported including economic theories. There were economists in India but I think nobody was respected to the extent of an Adam Smith or an Alfred Marshall or Malthus. Dr M.R. Ventakesh also mentioned about the Christian idea of broken self. It is being imbibed by all of us and we have not tried to understand economics from the family or civilisational prisms.
Subramania Bharati, the great Tamil poet was lamenting in a poem that was supposed to be his autobiography the works of greats like Kamban, Kalidasa, Bhaskaracharya, Panini, Shankaracharya, Thiruvalluvar and others are not even known to the current generation. Once you bring the family and the civilisational aspect, you always bring culture. Without culture, I do not think you can have sustainable economics. This has been the argument of M.R. Venkatesh and he has given the argument so powerfully in all the chapters. We have imported everything, including Christian beliefs in economics. We have imported even the constitution.In Chennai, there is a place called Burma bazar where you get all the imported items. We are so enamoured by imported items and this is what he has questioned.
I cannot call Venkatesh’s book a treatise on economics because it actually questions the very basis of economics itself. I cannot even call it a research paper because normally research papers are taking various reference materials and trying to form an opinion. But here, Venkatesh is an opinionated person, so opiniated himself that he has actually formed a strong opinion, conveys his opinion and he has brought enormous amount of materials to back up this opinion. He has done the reverse of research.
Dr Kuldeep Ratnoo:
Prof Nalapat, since you are an expert of geopolitics and international relations, one thing that struck me while listening to Dr Venkatesh and Prabhakarji is about role of modern economic thinking, whether capitalism or communism,in disrupting the peace. Disrupting the peace not only in the external way, in the global waybut disrupting the peace within. So, I would request you to elaborate on this query on disruption of peace due to modern economics.
Prof Madhav Nalapat:
That is a very profound question. You take Afghanistan for example, you have a samadhi there, a small samadhi which is kept next to the samadhi of Muhammad Ghori whom as you know was defeated several times by Prithviraj Chauhan. When Muhammad Ghori finally succeeded, Prithviraj Chauhan was captured, brought back to Ghori’s home, tortured, blinded and killed. That samadhi is Prithviraj’s samadhi. The reality of the situation is that we have to understand that human beings are not perfect people. Unfortunately, or fortunately, if a theory is to be practical it has got to have applicability to human beings. I have always argued that laws are not the correct way for items such as diet, alcohol etc. The reality is that if you have laws on diet, people will challenge that or they will resent that and there will be social tensions because of that. If you try and prevent alcohol consumption through prohibition, the reality is that it is very easy to get liquor in these states. The fact of the matter is that you have to go for a long process of conscientisation. A long process of convincing people that it is in their best interests to follow certain norms and certain ways of life. And if you can’t convince them, then the law that we have inherited from the colonial system creates social tensions and complications. More importantly, it creates a large number of exceptions. A large number of individuals who escape the law and who flout the law because there may be just too many laws.
I often ask why is it that India is called such a corrupt country while countries like America which are fully materialistic unlike Indians are called less corrupt.The reason is that in India, over the years, beginning with the Mughals and the British, you have more or less criminalised every activity of the human being. There are so many laws and if you break the law, technically, you are an outlaw and you are corrupt. In USA or UK, what is illegal in India is legal. And if it is legal, it is by definition not corrupt. I am not saying it is a bad thing. In many of the cases where bans are imposed, what they are talking is good and helpful to society but these bans do not really work unless there is an effort for social conscientisation. We may persuade the government to pass a law. But the law by itself is meaningless unless there is a huge degree of conscientisation. I like Dr Venkatesh’s way of thinking in the sense that he has been conscientised as an individual.
We have to understand that as soon as mathematics and economics came together, economics ceased to be the practical science. It became more and more theoretical. Many of the concepts of economics that we have studied are completely theoretical and it has no relevance. Supply and demand, every market being completely transparent, every bid being open to all, doesn’t exist anywhere in the world. But that is what a textbook teaches. No wonder the policies based on these are harmful.We cannot avoid a slow painful process of conscientisation and in that situation, I would like to say that we have to be Sanatanis. By SanataniI mean that you accept that different paths are there and somehow the universe has got to be such that the paths will lead to the same goal. I have been very encouraged by the comments of Sarsanghchalak of the RSS Dr Mohan Bhagwat about all of us in India having a common DNA. Dr Bhagwat has not distinguished between one faith and another faith. He says that we are all Indians. The Hindu, you have a spectrum. But I would like to say that the one good thing about the Hindu faith is that the Sanatani roots are very deep in the Hindu faith. And that is why there is a certain degree of acceptability in the Hindu faith.
There is an effort by the Sino-Wahabi alliance. I am delighted that the chief of defence staff General Bipin Rawat has openly talked about what I have been saying for years. The alliance between the Wahabis and communist China is working in the US and India to widen the fault lines in the society. To make the fringes in the society stronger.To make extremes stronger, to make hate stronger and compress the moderate middle of society. Great thinkers like Dr Bhagwat have understood this issue. They have understood the dangers that India that other democracies are facing in this effort to divide us and to fractionate us. They are now basically reaching to the roots of the Sanatani doctrine which essentially is that all paths are valid and they lead to the goal. And what is the goal? The goal is what Dr M.R. Venkatesh has put at the core of his book. Sometimes it is difficult to find words to express your thoughts. The reality is the lexicon of Venkatesh may not allow him to present his ideas in a language that most of us can understand. We have to understand that this country is at war with the Sino-Wahabi alliance and they are trying to tear our society apart. They are using social media and various other methods to spread hate over love. The love that is expressed in reverence for family.
What is important for us in India? To create an atmosphere of creativity. I can assure you all these dismal prophecies will go away provided you have an interface and an ambience that promotes creativity. If you follow Sanatan dharma, there is no question that you are the most creative being on the planet. People from all over India are all over in Silicon Valley. It is because of the creativity that is energised by openness, by the adjustability, by the willingness to go into different hypothesis of Sanatan dharma. I think we have to understand that Santan dharma should be the anchor for social theories and also for economic theories which are based on the need to create a healthy society. In my case, I find it very difficult to define a Christian, Muslim or Hindu in terms of palpable characteristics because there is so much of divergence in each of these categories. I would like to recognise the value of our common DNA as Indians. The common DNA of Indic civilisation – a civilisation going back 10,000-12,000 years. I lament the fact that till today, our children are not taught that our civilisation goes back 12,000 years of very clear historical evidence. Even today, Ram Sethu is treated as some kind of a natural formation rather than what it actually was. Even today, Lord Ram is treated as a myth. You have the right to say that Lord Ram was only a king, a human being or a God. But how can you doubt that Lord Ram existed. He is there as a concept, an idol in all our hearts.Everything comes from the same eternal force. That force has been described so beautifully in the Gayatri Mantra. That eternal force is the creator of everything. So, if you revere the creation of the Almighty, you will revere everything. There is nothing wrong with that. If you are indulging in a different way, then there is question of racial supremacy slowing giving way to religious supremacy. Society is horizontal, it is not vertical or hierarchical. All human beings are the same. This is a complex world and a complex society and there are no easy answers to it. I salute Dr Venkatesh for attempting to answer these.
Our country and our civilisation are in mortal danger and a part of that reason is that we have not even acknowledged that civilisation in our schoolbooks, in our textbooksand in our discourses. We deny the existence of our past as myth. None of this actually is a reflection on any faith, people or belief. Everything is embraced by this overriding doctrine of Sanatan dharma. We are all creations of that same eternal force in that great universe of thought, action and energy that is there in ancient Indian wisdom. In every country you can see cruelty, injustice, oppression whether in family or in society. Let us learn from modern life, medieval life and let us also learn from ancient life. It is unfortunate that in our curriculum this hardly finds a mention. It had nothing to do with religion. They are simply wise teachings.We all talk of Vasudevakutumbakam. The origin of this is in the Hitopodesha. It was based on a conversation between a deer, a fox and a crow. The fox was trying to tempt the deer so that it could eat the deer. And the crow was trying to warn the deer that it could be eaten. And the fox said, Vasudevakutumbakam, we are one big happy family. The fact is that Vasudevakutumbakam is applicable only when we are all human beings. When people are animals in human form, it is not applicable. It is so important that Dr M.R. Venkatesh has talked about the importance of essentiality and oneness in his thinking. As I read his work, he is stressing on the Vasudevakutumbakam of those who are human beings not those who have contempt for human beings. We are not in a good safe place. We are under attack. This is attack on a civilisational country. But a country where so much of pedagogy does not even know that it is a civilisational country. Let us discover our ancient Indian knowledge. Dr Venkatesh has mentioned about the concept of original sin. It is not a good concept that you are born in a sin. A healthy attitude to society is found in our ancient history. There we can find the economics that is helpful for sustainability. If we do so, we will understand about the sustainability that is needed. Dr Venkatesh has taken a great step forward and many more steps need to be taken before this wonderful objective can be reached.
Dr Kuldeep Ratnoo:
Venkateshji, the issue is now coming towards the role of civilisation and the role of dharma. In economic thinking, development planning and also, what we call the welfare of humanity. What do you suggest for the policy makers regarding the role of dharma in economic planning and thinking?
Dr M.R. Venkatesh:
First and foremost, I have a challenge. I have to address modernity. I have to address the modern mind. I have to also keep in view that the modern mind can accept only a limited view of the ancients. Let us take a simple thing. There is Joseph Shine judgement in the Supreme Court which decriminalises adultery. What is polygamy? Polygamy is adultery sanctioned by a particular theology. Our Supreme Court is looking into whether polygamy is intra vires the Constitution or ultra vires the Constitution. Having decriminalised adultery, I do not know how they are going to reconcile the fact that polygamy is constitutional. And if polygamy is constitutional, why should you decriminalise adultery? If adultery is such an innocent thing and if it is only a civil wrong and not a criminal offence, then why entertain this petition? This is one small dimension but it throws open several such issues.
What is culture? What is civilisation? As Prabhakarji alluded, the tagline should have been ‘restrain to sustain.’ Now, which is the beginning of restrain? When did the animal become man? In my view, I have put forth the hypothesis that when the institution of marriage was formed, was recognised, was given social sanction, at that particular time, this was the mother of all institutions, we came to a conclusion that a man for a wife and a wife for a man is what will sustain the society. That will create peace. Now imagine a scenario, where one man takes four wives or ten wives. An indulgence in polygamy. You have a polygamous situation where 4 or 5 males will be left without any female partner for their basic biological requirement. Marriage is not only social, it is also biological and vice versa. So where do you get females for those men? I am not saying that polygamy creates violence but correlation between polygamous society and violence is on the rise and it is there demonstrably for all to see. Can you say that polygamous society which is basically run by Islamic theology should restrain itself? Should they not do introspection that naturally there is one baby girl available for one baby boy? So, if one baby boy takes three or four girls, there will be deficit of females in the marriage market. So, these boys are given a choice to go in search of a female partner in other societies, capture them, take them as your booty or in the process, you die, you will get 72 in heaven.The choice is very clear. If this is not remedied, where is the question of peace and progress? Which are the states on the boil? According to the index of terrorism, 85 per cent of the societies where there is extremism, terrorism or fundamentalism, you will also find polygamy flourishing side by side.
You have to address this civilisationally. The taming of the alpha male is the most significant leap in mankind. When the alpha male was tamed, he became a civilised man instead of being an animal. But the West has gone one step forward. To tame the alpha male, they have created an alpha female also. And that is how feminism has come in. Feminism is supposed to be an answer to patriarchy. And patriarchy comes in because of Christian theology of God, Holy Spirit and Christ being males. There is no feminine divine in Christian theology. In fact, Christophe Jefferlot has written a book wherein he concedes that there is a need to convert Mother Mary into Divine Mary. Mother Mary is like Kaushalya or Devki. They give birth to God, but they are not Goddess. Shakti is Goddess. They are in search of a feminine divine. The West is having a complete imbalance between the male and the female. The Abrahamic faiths which are completely dominated by males are having several imbalances. These are the imbalances that I am seeking to address. That is why I say that Ram is the ideal destination point for all of us. He is not merely a symbol. He is the destination point because that is where civilisation begins.
West has created Alpha female. Chapter II of my book is titled, ‘Mummy, where is the Daddy or what is a Daddy?’Because the black population in West, especially America has completely given away the way of family life. Today the black father is becoming extinct because the black father thinks that the moment he impregnates his wife, he has to move out.I even quoted one story about Massachusetts girls of 10th standard equivalent. There is a bet among them on who will get pregnant first. And the nearby primary health dispensary is worried that so many girls are coming and testing for pregnancy. They call the principal who in turn calls the parents. But the parents say that they can’t do anything because if they interfere the children will call the police and the police will catch them. This is the level to which you have atomised the western society. This has not been created overnight. In 1960, a Swedish actress Ingrid Bergman, who had a love affair with an Italian director called Rossellini,wanted to go to America and applied for visa. Americans asked her not to come there as they were very clear that those celebrities having child outside of wedlock should not enter US. This was 60 years back. After Lyndon Johnson came to power, he said we have to do something for the Black population. The state recognised girls having babies by providing for creches adjacent to schools and all welfare support. So, instead of parents and society worrying about such girls, it became a norm because government recognised it. Today, America has spent roughly USD 22 trillion in the last 60 years on welfare of Black population. Children born outside the wedlock of any Black person in America is 70 per cent.
Who is footing the bill? It is American middle-class who is disciplined and hardworking. This is the tussle between Republicans and Democrats that is going on. It is fascinating thing. Trump was trying to remedy this particular situation. The whole world came on him. And the same is happening in India. It will happen across the world, wherever the liberals are there, because they believe, right from the time of Plato to Marx, even the great Periyar who lived in Tamilnadu, and said that women should get rid of their wombs. He even suggested that institution of marriage should be completely broken. Marx said that marriage is a bourgeois clap trap. They want to destroy family. Plato even suggested that male and female should only come together for the limited purpose of giving birth to a child and the child should not know their parents. This is the extent to which people have thought of creating designer society. I have no problem but what will be the consequences? The consequence is that we are taxing the disciplined, hardworking, monogamous self-sustaining individuals.
Every yojana is a bojhana. We are transferring the wealth from the disciplined into the hands of the most indisciplined through a very archaic process called the bureaucracy. How do you deal with the bureaucracy? Which country, which state, which society, which civilisation has prospered through taxes? Which society, which family has come up through welfare? The Roman empirebefore it broke down, Marcus Aurelius was giving pork oil free and it was supposed to be the pinnacle of the Roman empire. It collapsed because the moment you start welfare, start giving doles, no state can be sustainable. Today, take the balance sheet of Government of India. As on 31 March 2020, the liability of Government of India is Rs 100 lakh crore. I am not taking liability of PSUs or banks. But assets are only to the extent of Rs 45 lakh crore. Rs 55 lakh crores of liability exists in the books of Government of India without assets. If at all anything to be referred to NCLT, it should be the balance sheet of government of India.
What is the root of the problem? The root of the problem is world over the constitutions have been modelled on the Hobbesian thought. Thomas Hobbes wrote a book in 1657 titled ‘Leviathan.’ That is the birth of the nation-state and many countries have modelled it on thatidea. Why should we have an omnipresent, omnipotent state? Why should government take all responsibilities? Nobody asks this. We are in civilisation where we are rooted to Karmanye Vadhikaraste and we are a peculiar country. India is a country which has two names. We are called India and Bharat. So, we suffer from multiple personality disorder. We are Indians when we deal with the state. We are Bharatiyas when we otherwise deal with our families, friends, relativesand in other contractual obligations. Whenever, we become Bharatiya, we are duty-based and whenever we become Indians, we are right-based. This right-based Constitution is in conflict with the civilisational ethos. Do we realise the consequences? The 1950 Constitution of India is nothing but a rehash of the 1935 Government of India Act. And it is being completely rights-based.
In 1947, Julian Huxley calls Mahatma Gandhi to write a piece for UNESCO on human rights. Gandhiji said, “I have drawn from the wisdom of my illiterate but wise mother and I have realised that there is no right without corresponding duties.” In 1948, there was the Bogota Conference. It is the most exhilarating piece I could come across in my research. This was based on many Constitutions of Latin American countries. There, fundamental duties are embedded in the Constitution. Which religion will say do not do your duties to your own parents, your own family and your own country?
We are approaching the 75th year of independence. Probably in the next 25 years, we should give ourselves a new Constitution. A Constitution that is based on our own cultural ethos, civilisational values, duties and responsibilities.Every citizen must feel responsibility. Without responsibility, we cannot move forward. Unfortunately, a retired chief justice of the High Court has reportedly said that if a man wants to be lazy enough to lie in his home, the government must take the responsibility of feeding him three times a day. Now, who will fund the government to pay the three meals of that wonderful Indian? Obviously, you and me with our taxes.These are profound questions. Can we run a country where welfare dominates? Where taxes are so hight? Where individual duties are so much cast on ourselves? We need to go to this genetic makeup of our Constitution. Probably, we need to start pronto on several of these issues. The core issue is that this Constitution is by and large a Christian construct. The Christian concept is based on the genesis of broken self, beginning from genesis of Adam and Eve. They wanted to have Christ as an external agent to redeem them. We don’t believe in external agent. We believe in atmashuddhikaran. We believe in self. That is why even Mahabharata’s original name is called Jaya. Jaya means victory over self. We are a civilization which believes that external factors don’t come to our idea of elevating. We have to elevate ourselves. We need to do our duties. This is our civilisational ethos. This is in conflict with a right-based broken self. That is why this book is also a book of balance between self and broken self. Self is what Hinduism believes, Sanatan dharma believes and our civilisational values believe. Broken self is what the Western idea of civilisation is. We need to move from broken self to self. We need to rewrite our Constitution. That will realign our economic thought and principles. What is the role of individual? How does he feel towards his family? What is his duty towards his family?
Today everybody is happy as there is Right to Education and an amendment has been made to the Constitution. But we all know what is the fate of the Right to Education Act. You must have the duty and responsibility to bring out the best in your children. That is the civilisational responsibility. Every parent has it. How can these be made justiciable? I have probably opened a can of worms and this will take several rounds of discussion to reach a solution. That is why I give 25 years for reframing of Constitution. We have to take into consideration all religions, practices and cultures. We will impose a duty on you because this land is of the dutiful. That is why it has survived for such a long period of time. That is what makes it eternal. These are eternal values. This is the core theme of the book that economics will sustain provided we sustain ourselves as a society. And we will survive as a society when we have a duty-based and not a rights-based society. For that, we need to make fundamental alterations to our Constitution and if need be, we need to rewrite our Constitution.
Manoj Misran: I agree thatdue to Mughal or British rule, we became law abiders or law breakers, instead of self-driven good individuals. I come from Rajasthan, and despite strong laws and rulings of Supreme Court, all the hills have been turned barren. But if there is even one small temple on hill-top, it is enough to protect entire greenery there. We have Orans in Rajasthan, mini-forests declared by deities, and nobody dares to cut a tree or make any change in it, even though there is no security guard. With an assumption that we have to coexist with a diverse set of people from different backgrounds, what is the roadmap for this system to be accepted without people feeling threatened that their individual beliefs will be compromised?
Dr M.R. Venkatesh: The answer to this is very simple. In 1946, when we started writing the Constitution, these questions did not arise. It came down to some few hundred people, most of them lawyers who thought that what they were doing is right. On the issue of taxation, there was a committee formed under Nandini Ranjan Sarkar on 17 November 1946 and they gave their report on 5 December 1946. All in few days.And the only issue they addressed is splitting of taxes between the Centre and states. There was no other discussion. Point is, when we were thrust a Constitution in 1950, we never asked these questions. We are asking these questions now as we are worried what will happen to X community and Y community. I am saying that we have to take every section of the population along. It doesn’t mean that the Constitution is cast in stone and we cannot make any changes. The time has come where the genius of the civilisation has to represent itself to the entire world as an economic, civilisational and a cultural super power. In that case, we have to have a new Constitution. Tell me which religion or sect will tell you not to do your duty. I am only asking for a duty-based Constitution instead of a rights-based Constitution. On the contrary rights-based Constitution is a Christian-based constructand hence it is not a secular Constitution, it is a Christian Constitution.
Q: Is it a civilisational conflict – the old values versus new values? When we talk about rights-based versus duty-based Constitution, are we not referring to a conflict of civilisations?
Dr M.R. Venkatesh: I am not saying there should be no rights. In fact, rights are also to be recognised and respected. But to say that rights are absolute and there are no duties is something that is an anathema. Rights and duties need to be balanced. Without duties, rights cannot exist. Rights without duties will only lead us to a state where we are roaming with animal spirits. I have mentioned about these in my book.
Hanmandloo K: When we talk about rights and duties, my opinion is that the administrative aspects and its implementation are also equally important.
Dr M.R. Venkatesh: I agree with you. In fact, I have quoted an RTI which we did in Tamil Nadu and it is a very interesting find. The question was how many teachers who are teaching in government schools are sending their children to the very same school where they are teachers. You will be surprised that the answer ranges from 3 per cent to 5 per cent in some districts and in a city like Chennai, it is zero per cent in several schools. Can we not make a regulation which makes it compulsory for all government officers to send their children to government schools? Now that will be the beginning of a new education policy as every parent will take responsibility for water, good education, blackboards, toilets and everything else. Unless you cast that responsibility on people, the hundreds of documents coming out on education policy but all these are only exercises in semantics and not on delivery.
Prof Madhav Nalapat: I don’t want to be Malthusian on this that society is going to go down and collapse. Parson Malthus said this at a time just before the British Empire reached its pinnacle and Britain basically controlled about 40 per cent of the land area of the world. Malthus was sceptical about it but I am very hopeful about our country. I am hopeful because of two factors – a) the younger people and b) technology. Prime Minister Narendra Modi very correctly said, ‘minimum government, maximum governance.’ Technology is going to result in minimum governance and that is one of the best things that had happened under Prime Minister Modi. Under digital India, so many government processes will take place without you meeting any officials. Money is now coming directly to the bank account of the villagers and that is a big change brought about by technology. Technology can handle so many activities including education. My point is we all believe that we know what a perfect society is. The first Prime Minister of India Jawaharlal Nehru was very confident that he knew what a perfect society is. I would not worry about the private sector or any other sector. I would make the government sector better than the private sector. The way is not to have a monopoly for any sector, the way is to self-improve. For that, you have to have confidence in yourself. Take for example, Paul Samuelson. He is a Nobel Prize winner in economics. The fundamental textbook of economics is written by him and also Alfred Marshall. In India, the people who are so called experts will never write a basic textbook on economics. The reality is that is where you have to start. You have to start at primary schools, high schools and universities. When the basics of economics are understood, a lot of ambiguities and conflicts will disappear. If it is not taught in curricula, technology will make it available for you to access.
In my view, central banks and central banking institutions are going to find them more and more powerless in the future. You are going to have digital currencies and you can’t stop their rise. The management of money supply will be taken away from the central bank. The management of fiscal policies will be taken away from the government.
I am happy that Prime Minister Modi has done away with quite a few irksome laws but he needs to do more. Because the problem in India is that whatever you do, some official will come and say this is not legal.
Government should not be an obstacle course. If you make rules and obstacle course, then it is very easy for an official to say that you have broken the rule, then your grandchildren will still be stuck in the same case that was filed when you were in your middle age. That is the system in India. I want to say that I am optimistic that the young will demand minimum governance. Even though, there is a huge vested interest in preventing this obstacle course from being destroyed, it will be destroyed. I have gone to many countries and the best people in these countries come from my country, India. Unfortunately, in our country, these people are not able to do even one hundredth of what they are doing in those countries.
It is not just a question of one document, it is a fundamental lack of understanding and appreciation of who we are. The roots of our civilisation and the depths of our culture. I, as an Indian,am proud of that entire culture but I as an Indian have been denied the opportunity to learn about 90% of that culture because the schools and colleges did not teach anything of that. Now with the help of social media, that is coming. But it is also important to create the filters. Dr Venkatesh has opened a Pandora’s box but it was a necessary box to open. We have to understand that it is a heritage of all of us who are proud to belong to this great culture.
Rajesh Saxena: The family has been an integral part of ancient Indian ethos. What is happening is that with the inroads of Western ethos into Indian society, joint family has broken into nuclear family. And even within that nuclear family, the concept of individual space and privacy has broken that nuclear family into different rooms. This is a very dangerous situation. Does your book suggest a way out of this?
Dr M.R. Venkatesh: The answer to this is slightly complicated. There are so many questions raised and it is not necessary that all need to be answered in one book. The nuclear family is also getting atomised because today, every single child at the age of three is not looking at her family or her immediate surrounding as a basis of recognition. She is more interested in materialistic things. This is the type of penetration that is happening the world over. When three-year-olds are not aligning themselves to anything but brands, it is a worrisome thing. Just like in the US, as the President said “shop till you drop”, every time after a terrorist attack, Mumbai is shown to have side stepped that attack the very next day, and bringing normalcy is glorified. You have a combination of liberals and media people who have set a narrative where you can’t even cry for the dead. You are more worried about the stock markets and consumer confidence indices being up. I have asked in my book whether Manmohan Singh and Raghuram Rajan were planted by some other forces to carry out activities that were detrimental to ourcountry. The scholarly class has to work out the solutions for the problems that the country is facing.
Shri P.S. Prabhakar:
The fundamental conclusion that Dr Venkatesh has come up at the end of the treatise is that we are having a heavily borrowed Constitution and this Constitution does not suit us anymore. In fact, it did not suit us even at the point of time it was being written. We have borrowed it from the 1935 Act. Even in the Constituent Assembly itself, there were attempts made to include socialism in the Preamble, but failed.Indira Gandhi during the time of emergency smuggled the word ‘socialism.’ Basically, an economic agenda was brought into the Constitution as if it is an eternal thing. That was a bad and sad thing. Even when the Janata government came to power in 1977, they made so many changes to the Constitution, unmade many of the amendments made by Indira Gandhi but they did not touch this.
The problem is economic agenda of a nation cannot be a long-term agenda. It has to be a short-term agenda. In fact, this very same Congress has gone from socialism to capitalism when they were ruling. This is one aspect that MRV has written powerfully. And the argument that he had made is so powerful that it is time that we very seriously look at changing the Constitution or even have a new Constitution per se. For example, ours is a nation that has got two names. In Brahmin community, when you have this thread ceremony, you are called dwijanmawhich means you are born again. Likewise, we are also born twice as Indian and as Bharatiya. As you rightly pointed out, the Constitution has to be rewritten and the fundamental duties will have to be given the same amount of force and power that the fundamental rights have been given in the Constitution.
I would like to say only one thing before I wind up. The book is avery seriously written book and has profound ideas. It has got such brilliant original ideas and probably as a small amount of relief, in Chapter VII, he has come out with his version of Aesop’s Fables. This chapter is a wonderful treatise on how taxation has been dealt with in our country. I am very happy that I have participated in the webinar. I hope the book gets to be read by right minds, the powers that be and they implement the solutions put forth in the book.
Dr Kuldeep Ratnoo:
We are very grateful to all the three panellists, Prof Madhav Nalpatji, Prabhakarji, Dr Venkateshji and all the participants. As I said in the beginning, the issue of sustainability and balancing, the resources and goods, whether produced by man or nature - there is a requirement to find proper formula and proper guidelines. Venkateshji has taken the lead based on the work which our ancientrishis,yogisand people who were dedicated to the wellbeing of the society have done. He has rightly pointed out that it is a heritage of our beliefs and the all-comprehensive concept of dharma that alone can provide guidelines for reorienting our political, economic and social life. And as human beings evolved, came out of forests and started doing agriculture, they developed the sense of ecology, importance of nature. Thereafter, our rishis and sages emphasised on worshipping nature, preserving natural environment. They also stressed on the need to preserve them for our future generations. It was part of our culture, civilisation and dharma. Unfortunately, as we started moving away from ecology and agriculture and we started moving towards more and more machinery, we lost touch with agriculture, ecology and our duties. They were too many goods being produced and too less consumers. And there came all these concepts of, ‘the more you consume, the better citizen you are.’ That is how all these crises have come up. Now, the world is looking for a solution. We are very happy that Venkateshji has taken the initiative. Definitely, one book cannot provide all the solutions and answers as Venkateshji himself accepted. There are so many issues. But at least one sincere attempt has been made. This will initiate the debate and motivate people to take the discussion and discourse forward. And to take not only within the Indian policy makers, but to take it to the global institutions.Because that is where the harm is being done. That is where the narrowness of the solutions is there as they believe in only two roads - whether it is the state driven economy or market driven economy. We talk about morality, but for them market is immoral. So, there are so many contradictions and challenges. But we are happy to have Venkateshji, Prof Nalapt and Prabhakarji with us to discuss these issues and we hope that this discussion will be taken forward. Thank you!
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